Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 2008 Issue »

    Unpacking the Placement of American Indian and Alaska Native Students in Special Education Programs and Services in the Early Grades

    School Readiness as a Predictive Variable

    Jacob Hibel, Susan C. Faircloth, The Pennsylvania State University, and George Farkas, University of California, Irvine
    In this article, Jacob Hibel, Susan Faircloth, and George Farkas investigate the persistent finding that American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students are overrepresented in special education. Using data from the kindergarten cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, the authors compare the third-grade special education placement rate of AI/AN students to that of other racial/ethnic groups. They find that approximately 15 percent of AI/AN third-graders received special education services, a rate far higher than that of the other racial and ethnic groups. However, using multilevel regression analysis to control for a number of confounding factors, including socioeconomic status and test scores at school entry, they find no statistically significant difference between the special education placement rates of AI/AN and non-Hispanic white students. Controlling for a range of school characteristics, they also find that schools with a higher proportion of AI/AN students place these students in special education at rates similar to those of other schools in the United States. The authors conclude that the strongest predictor of special education placement is a student’s academic readiness on entering kindergarten as measured by the student’s pre-reading and pre-mathematics scores. They discuss the implications of these findings for future research and practice in the education of AI/AN students.

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    Jacob Hibel is a doctoral candidate in sociology and demography in the Department of Sociology and the Population Research Institute at the Pennsylvania State University. His research focuses on the social causes and consequences of early childhood inequality, including special education placement, school readiness, early language development, ethnicity, and biological factors. His publications include “Inequality in School Readiness” in Early Disparities in School Readiness: How Do Families Contribute to Successful and Unsuccessful Transitions into School? (with G. Farkas; edited by A. Booth and A. C. Crouter, 2008), and “A Propensity Score Matching Analysis of the Effects of Special Education Services” in The Journal of Special Education (with P. Morgan, M. Frisco, and G. Farkas, forthcoming).

    Susan C. Faircloth is an assistant professor of educational leadership and codirector of the Center for the Study of Leadership in American Indian Education in the College of Education at the Pennsylvania State University. Her research focuses on the education of culturally and linguistically diverse learners, and on issues related to the preparation of educational leaders. Faircloth’s recent publications include “Administrative Challenge or Ethical Dilemma? Responding Justly When a Student with a Disability Engages in a Violent or Disruptive Act” in the Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership (with S. T. Ritter and F. R. Wilson, 2007), and “Collaborating with Tribal Communities and Families to Improve the Social, Emotional, and Linguistic Competence of Young Indigenous Children” in Perspectives on Communication Disorders and Sciences in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Populations (with R. Pfeffer, 2008).

    George Farkas is a professor in the Department of Education at the University of California, Irvine. Farkas was previously a professor at the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Texas at Dallas. His current research focuses on the acquisition of cognitive skills by at-risk students. He has authored four books, and his most recent articles include “Do Instructional Practices Contribute to Inequality in Achievement? The Case of Mathematics Instruction in Kindergarten” in The Journal of Early Childhood Research (with K. Bodovski, 2007), and “The Role of Gender and Friendship in Advanced Course-Taking” in Sociology of Education (with C. Riegle-Crumb and C. Muller, 2006).
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    Fall 2008 Issue

    Abstracts

    Putting the “Development” in Professional Development
    Understanding and Overturning Educational Leaders’ Immunities to Change
    Deborah Helsing, Annie Howell, Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey, Harvard Graduate School of Education
    Achievement as Resistance
    The Development of a Critical Race Achievement Ideology among Black Achievers
    Dorinda J. Carter, Michigan State University
    Unpacking the Placement of American Indian and Alaska Native Students in Special Education Programs and Services in the Early Grades
    School Readiness as a Predictive Variable
    Jacob Hibel, Susan C. Faircloth, The Pennsylvania State University, and George Farkas, University of California, Irvine
    Capturing Authenticity, Transforming Perception
    One Teacher’s Efforts to Improve Her Students’ Performance by Challenging Their Impressions of Self and Community
    William H. Marinell, Harvard Graduate School of Education

    Book Notes